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Non-TCU Game of the Week: Washington vs. Oregon

Conference championship week is upon us. A major shakeup is in store for the CFP.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Oregon at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Headliner:

#3 Washington vs #5 Oregon (-10) 7:00 p.m. CT Friday, December 1 on ABC

Win and in. Whoever comes away victorious in this battle of Pac-12 juggernauts will likely secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. If Washington loses, a College Football Playoff appearance isn’t totally out of the question. But for Oregon, this game means everything.

These two squads met nearly two months ago, in the second week of October. The mid-October battle went back and forth before Washington sealed the game with a late touchdown. Both world-class offenses came to play that day, as the Ducks racked up 541 yards, while the Huskies totaled 415 yards in the affair.

Flash forward to December and Oregon is licking their chops at the chance to knock off their conference rival. After the loss to Washington, Oregon rallied to win six in a row. All but one of the victories came by two or more scores. The Ducks continued to flex their offense, finishing with the second-best offense in the nation. Oregon finished second in yards per game, first in passing yards, and second in points per game. Led by likely Heisman finalist, Bo Nix, this Ducks team has the potential to win it all.

Following the victory against the Ducks, Washington nearly scraped by in every game. The Huskies only managed one double-digit win after the battle against the Ducks. And in that win, Washington beat USC by just 10 points. After scoring 40 points in each of their first four games, Washington only managed to break the 40-point plateau in two games the rest of the season. The Huskies offense remains elite, but this squad is susceptible to less-than-stellar showing now more than ever. The Huskies finished the season outside the top ten in total yardage and scoring. However, the Huskies did rank second in passing, right behind the Ducks.

It’s certain, the final Pac-12 Championship will be filled with fireworks. The key to victory will be in the trenches. Oregon quarterback, Nix, was only sacked five times this entire season. And Washington quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., was only brought down eight times. It’s apparent both teams protect the quarterback well, but Washington will be more pressed to protect the passer. The Ducks sacked opposing quarterbacks 32 times this season, while Washington only brought down opposing QBs 19 times. In the first contest, each team recorded just one sack. If either team can cause havoc in the opposing backfield, a win will be easier to come by.

My pick: Oregon wins 38-27

The Undercard:

#8 Alabama vs #1 Georgia (-+5.5) 3:00 p.m. CT Saturday, December 2 on CBS

Alabama versus Georgia, a battle of the college football blue bloods. Only one iteration of the College Football Playoff hasn’t included either Alabama or Georgia. More College Football Playoffs have included both SEC squads (2), than not. These two teams are the epitome of consistency and excellence. The Crimson Tide have won double-digit games in 16 straight seasons. While the Bulldogs haven’t had the prolonged success that Alabama has, Georgia is 41-1 over the past three seasons.

Alabama leads the all-time series, 42-26-4, against Georgia. However, the Bulldogs got the best of the Crimson Tide in the most recent matchup. These two squads last squared off in the 2022 CFP National Championship. Behind a monstrous defense, Georgia defeated Alabama 33-18. In that championship game, Alabama led with 10 minutes to go. Down, but not out, Georgia scored three touchdowns in the final eight minutes to come away victorious.

This battle between the two powerhouses is a bit different this season. Known for their vaunted defenses, Georgia ranks ninth in points allowed, while Alabama ranks seventeenth. But the offenses are vastly different. The Bulldogs have dominated, averaging the sixth most yards in the nation. However, the Crimson Tide offense isn’t nearly as good. Led by quarterback Jalen Milroe, the Alabama offense has taken some time to come into its own. Over the past three games, Milroe has totaled 11 total touchdowns.

Although Georgia isn’t the same squad a year ago that won the national championship by 58 points, this squad is still an extremely tough out. The offense is well-balanced and the defense is full of playmakers. Alabama may not be a long shot to win, but the offense has to figure out the Georgia defense quickly to keep up with the Bulldogs.

My pick: Georgia wins 26-19